Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Pexels.com
Have you seen this video below? The one of a cougar chasing a man away from her cubs? You can find it here. In it, Kyle Burgess, a 26 man from Utah, stumbled upon cougar cubs only to be followed by the mother for over 6 minutes. The first time I saw this video it had comments by a mountain lion photographer who explained the cat’s behavior. I found it interesting, but that was about it.
When I watched the original video, however, with the voice of Burgess, I noticed how his fear seeped into my veins. My body started responding with a higher heart rate and I felt the adrenaline. I found myself thinking up ways of responding in this situation. Throw a rock. Use a soothing voice. Wave your arms. As if I was preparing for a similar situation (needlessly so, since we don’t exactly found ourselves overrun by cougars in the local forests.)
It got me thinking about how contagious this fear really is. And rightfully so, since we’ve had to depend on it for our species’ survival.
Yesterday, Belgium announced another set of measures to try to keep Covid under control. Under control meaning that hospitals would be able to treat the patients that need treatment, and don’t get overrun the way they did last March. All restaurants and bars will close for a month, we’re allowed one close contact outside of our household and working from home is mandatory where possible.
My students and I talked in class about what these rising numbers mean for us. Many students dread the idea of going back to online classes (and most teachers I know feel the same), and yet we all understand that this threat is still out there. There is a sense of fear which hangs over us like a thick mist, and even though we look at this epidemic in different ways, the fear still contaminates this society in a much broader way than Corona has until now.
Chronic fear leads to anxiety, and anxiety has a whole bunch of side effects we’d all rather opt out of. Anxious people can suffer from, i.a, muscle aches, lower immunity, sleep loss, loss of libido, stomach issues and depression. No one chooses this list of symptoms, and yet we would have more choices in how we react to our chronic fear if we were more aware of it.
The thing is, this crisis has been going on for nearly 8 months, and this threat hanging over our heads, this fear of people who sneeze or cough, this distance between us, has become nearly habitual. We get accustomed, and think that means it no longer has an effect on us. What that video reminded me of was that each spark of fear that nestles in my brain can easily be ignited into a fire when it’s fanned.
I love Mel Robbins’ talks on anxiety. (I referenced her in this previous post as well). She speaks from experience and doesn’t try to make things seem better than they are. I really appreciate her honesty. In the video below she interviews Dr. Nicole Lepera on how to cope with this chronic fear we all deal with these days.
One of my most important coping mechanisms is to look for laughter. I’ll watch stand-up, or a funny TV show, or will incorporate humor into my classes. Somehow laughter and fear don’t mix.
Faith plays a role as well, trusting that in the end things will pan out and that we, even if it’s really hard, are strong enough to deal with whatever comes our way.
But most of all, what helps me lower my fear and anxiety is the people I’m surrounded with. My loving partner, my parents, brothers and sisters, my friends and colleagues, my students and the eternal faith in the goodness of the world that my children reflect back to me each day.
In the powerful words of Colin Jost at the end of the following SNL sketch:
We can do dis!